This article is a response to “Don’t Follow Your Dreams” by Vanessa Elizabeth a travel blogger currently abroad who has written some very good and entertaining pieces on traveling. Follow her blog here at Wander Onwards.
Let me get this right: I can choose to work in a corporate office and be financially secure and stable OR follow my dreams. It’s one or the other? Right? I call bull shit.
To be fair, Ms. Elizabeth is not completely off base. The problems she satirically outlines are real, but her solution to them is somewhat naive. Following your dreams is not easy, but sacrificing your future for your present is not following your dreams… it’s selling yourself short. Ignoring the problem is not a solution and not having a plan is not a plan.
Let me back up, I once backpacked through Nepal with a guy who walked away from his job in his mid-thirties and armed with a modest nest egg traveled the world for the next 20 years without working a single day. He is worth more today AND he followed his dreams. How did he accomplish this? Easy. He knew how much money he needed, down to the dollar, to be able to travel indefinitely and still make money doing it by living under $18,000 year. Not too many people understand this, actually most people assume it cannot be done. You cannot see the world and provide for your future. You have to choose between one or the other. And this is a problem within our society.
You can achieve both, but you need to radically redefine how you approach it. I don’t want to follow my dreams for 20 years only to be left paying for it on the back-end when I am too old to chew the leather anymore. I want to follow my dreams today, tomorrow, and I want my kids to be able to follow theirs. But that requires some sacrifice.
First, it means making your dollar stretch by not being a tourist. Avoiding fancy hotels, expensive flights, and a costly travel budget is just a starting point. You cannot afford to “vacation”, it means getting out in the local economy and making ends meet. Sometimes that means packing onto a sweaty bus with 50 locals for a few bucks or hopping on the cheapest space-available cargo flight to “anywhere, but here”.
Two, it means finding a career in line with your “dreams”. Trust me, there is a way to make money doing just about anything and if you don’t know what that is– you are probably just not looking hard enough. Travel writers, photographers, journalist, even teaching are just a few ways to make money traveling. Besides what is the point of experiencing the world if you cannot share those experiences or somehow give back your perspective with the rest of society? A life well lived carried to the grave is not a life well lived– at some point that experience has to be paid forward.
Three, quit making excuses. Americans typically make more per capita then just about any other demographic in the world. And what do we have to show for it? A mountain of debt? student loans? expensive health care? rampant consumerism? We are told we need all these things. When in reality we can be financially secure and live the life we want by simply lowering our cost of living and adapting to a few lifestyle changes. So eat some local food, use a water filter, go to the doctor in India, read some books and teach yourself some life skills that you can turn into a profession, and put a little money back for the future…. and keep traveling.
Ty Stephens is a Native of East Texas, and he is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point with a BS in International Relations. After commissioning in 2011 as an Infantry Officer, he has served as both an Armored Platoon Leader and a Battalion Mortar Platoon Leader while assigned to 1st Battalion 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division at Ft. Riley, Kansas. He has deployed in support of Operation Shared Accord to South Africa in 2013 and Operation Enduring Freedom- Horn of Africa in 2014. Ty has traveled to the North, Latin and South Americas, Western Europe, and South Asia. Ty enjoys the outdoors and adventure sports.
The thoughts conveyed in this article are the writer’s alone, and the following content does not reflect the official views or policies of the Department of Defense, the Department of the Army, the United States Military Academy or the United States Government.